Stefanie Hartman In The Press

Getting ready for your book or product promotion

Posted on 13 September 2011 by Stefanie

Here is the third great installment I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys! 

Sometimes there are so many pieces involved in promotions and you want to have every detail perfect that you end up not ever getting your campaign going.  It’s really important to know the pieces involved, but to also remember that what’s more important than being ‘perfect’ is to JUST DO IT!  In this article Kevin describes some of the things you can think about before your book promotion.  Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie

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Book Promotion: Getting Your House in Order

So far in our series, we’ve discussed how best to describe your book in an airtight sentence and who your first group of readers will be. This week, we’re going to pull back a bit.

Imagine that you’re in the weeks and months right before your book is published. What’s the best way to get ready for the big day? How much time will it take and what needs doing? All of these questions are part of the answer to the one that keeps authors awake at night when they have a new book on the horizon.

How ready would you like to feel?

When entertaining guests, we clean the house and stock the icebox. Before a trip, we pack a suitcase and notify the neighbors. We do this because the best antidote for fear of the unexpected is readiness. Just as you won’t be a good host if you don’t plan for your guest’s arrival, you’ll be a lousy spokesperson for your book if you don’t get ready before its due date. Put more simply…

In order to best promote your book, make sure your own house is in order.

Anyone who has thrown a party knows that readiness does not mean scurrying about when the doorbell rings. Preparing to promote one’s book requires time and effort in advance of the publication day. The normal amount of prep time needed for book promotion is 3-6 months. For what? You might cry with surprise. I’m about to tell you. And before you think I’m being excessive, think of how long it took you to write your book. Do you want to skimp on your efforts now, right before it’s time for your book to find its readers?

How do you get ready? I break it down into three parts: 1) your calendar 2) your team 3) your online presence

Your Calendar: Clear it.

A diligent and thoughtful promotion effort takes three to six months of preparation and at least that much once the book is published. So to give your book both a fighting chance, we’re talking about a year. Sometimes it’s more. A lot less and your book will suffer.

We both know life won’t stop because you’ve got a book coming. So while it’d be unreasonable for me to say “clear a year on your calendar,” it’s also smart not to actively court major life changes during this crucial time.

That may sound like an obvious warning, but after a decade in publishing, I’m still amazed by how often authors decide that the weeks and months leading up to their book’s publication are exactly the right time to get married, have a baby, buy a house, change jobs, schedule major surgery, join the circus, etc.

Now is not the time for any of those things. Promoting your book, if done properly, will be at least a part-time job—more, if all goes well. And you want to be available for more interviews, more events, more everything should your book start to find its readers.

Promoting your book will be plenty hard. Don’t let your schedule stand in the way of your success.

Your Team: Talk to it.

We may write alone, but most do not live that way. Even though book promotion requires substantial time and energy, our families, friends, and coworkers will not vanish and let us devote ourselves fully to it.

But they can help, and will, if you ask. Three to six months before pub date is the time to start communicating with the key players in your life. Let your job know that you might need to take some days off or start socking away vacation time. Enlist your spouse and family to help out and reward them afterward with the vacation you will have to postpone now. (I once worked with an author who had scheduled a three-week no-Internet-access vacation for the week after her publication day. Guess how well her book sold?) As we discussed last week, your friends are your best allies. Now is the time to start prepping them for what lies ahead. And what lies ahead for you may be travel, late night events, extra hours at your laptop, and radio interviews at 5 AM.

And that’s if you’re promoting well.

Most importantly, if you are working with a publisher and/or a publicist, three to six months is the time to open lines of communication. A short, thoughtful email (four to six lines) to your editor saying you’d like to be introduced to your publicist is perfectly appropriate. If you won’t have a publicist, that same email is meant to clarify with your publisher who has what marketing responsibilities. Are they handling pitching reviewers and mailing galleys, or are you? Who is scheduling events? The answers vary but they will never be “sit still, we’ll take care of it.” You will be working. Now is the time to get clear on what and how much.

A word here about manners. Your publisher and/or publicist is a skilled professional with a demanding job. Yours is likely not the only book they are handling. Now is the time to state that you trust their judgment and are ready to be a hard working member of the team. “Put me to work!” your communication should convey. This is not the time for demands, blurted expectations, or “I won’t dos.” Rudeness or rigidity will sour your publisher on you and your book. And do you really want to do that to your book before it’s even been published?

Your Online Presence: Build it.

You will need an author website. A website takes time and money. Three to six months before pub date is a good time to start.

An ideal author’s website will be professionally designed (that means by someone who designs websites for a living, not your niece between homework and band practice) and will cost between $500-$1000. The domain name should be yourname.com or yournamewriter.com if you have a common name. Remember, the Internet is a big, unruly place. You want it to be as easy as possible for you and your book to be found.

A quality author website will contain pages for your biography, your book, news/events/happenings related to your promotional efforts, and a contact page with your email and that of your publicist. That’s all you need. With writers’ websites, less is often more. Music, animation, or a lot of fancy graphics are a distracting waste and come off as desperate. Your website should focus on conveying the most useful information to a prospective reader as quickly as possible

To find a good website designer, visit the websites of authors you respect who have new books coming out. A clear, simple, dignified website was designed by someone good. Their email will be at the bottom of the page. Contact two or three designers and see how you get along. A good designer will answer your questions promptly and with patience and clarity. A lousy designer will be short, thoughtless, tardy, or will not listen. Don’t give them your money, no matter how pretty talented they seem.

Should you set up a blog? A Facebook page? A Twitter account?

Can you maintain it? A blog is a continuously updated set of short writings. A Twitter account is a continuous stream of 140 characters updated several times a day. Do these sound like tasks you’d be willing to maintain for the duration of the promotion process? Because a poorly maintained blog/Twitter/Facebook page is worse than none at all.

We’ll be discussing which technologies to use on the marketing trail in a future segment. For now, three to six months is the time to start learning about these basic social media tools. Ask a friend or another author who uses them well to walk you through. Or just do a Google search on “How do I use Twitter to promote my book?” These are called “social media” for a reason.  How to use them is not a state secret.

Exercise: It’s three to six months before your book is going to be published. Begin clearing your calendar, assembling your team, and researching your website and social media tools. Then tell us in the comment section how it’s going.

BookTour.com launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

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Getting ready for your book or product promotion

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Judy Helm Wright - Bounce Back Person Says:

    Hello from Montana,

    Thanks for the great tips and suggestions. I didn’t decide to have a baby, but our daughter did! Yikes, I will be doing interviews while changing a new baby and chasing a six year old.

    What fun.

    Judy Helm Wright, author and keynote speaker

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